Professional Distancing: 5 Tips on Managing Your Employees During COVID-19
As we continue to navigate through our new normal of social distancing and working from home, there have been many articles written that include tips on managing the remote work environment, taking time for yourself, and setting up a home office--all of which are highly beneficial. But what if your role is not only managing yourself but also a team of people? As a client services manager, a large part of my job includes managing a team of consultants and ensuring operational excellence. Years ago, I worked as a full-time remote employee, and (as many of you currently do), I have had experience in managing employees that work in a different location from me. However, the current circumstances are unprecedented and, as leaders, this pandemic requires us to flex a different skill set. Below are some of my best practices as well as those observed in my own leaders:
1. Human Connection
Clearly, it’s something many of us are lacking these days. Before this pandemic, we spent more time with our coworkers than our families. Who would have thought you might be pining to hear Doug’s loud sneezes or Pam’s Game of Thrones theories? (Tiger King would now likely be a hot topic at the office!) Therefore, as a manager, it’s more important than ever to establish some sort of connection, albeit virtually. This means making your one-on-ones a priority and, yes, including video. (Your employees are dying to see each other’s homes anyway.) Try to allocate the same amount of time you would have had available for an in-person discussion. And, instead of emailing a question or a reply, why not set up a video chat? It breaks up the day for both of you and allows you to check in on your employees in a less formal way. Which leads me to my next point…
I’m not sure about you, but since we started working remotely, I have focused more on emotional well-being and have put a bit less emphasis on metrics during my one-on-ones. Right now, I’m checking in with my team to make sure they are able to access their emails, various systems, and, most of all,…are they okay? The lines between work and home life are blurry for everyone right now, and it’s important to recognize that your employees may be facing some personal struggles. We are #inthistogether, and you want to demonstrate that to your team.
3. Talk Amongst Yourselves
I would also encourage your employees to connect with fellow team members regularly to share encouragement, laughter, or to assist with work tasks. My senior team members have a daily team appointment that they’ve titled “office hours” to allow employees to ask specific work questions, vent about their day, and potentially feel more comfortable discussing current organizational events without management present. Again, it’s an attempt to recreate those interactions that would have happened organically in the office.
4. Feedback Is a Gift
One of the challenges I faced when working remotely was feeling “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s important that you are giving your employees regular professional feedback (both positive and constructive) so they know where they stand and don’t feel isolated or unsure of their performance since they can’t stop by your office.
5. We’re Still Running a Business
Because we don’t know when our social distancing will (hopefully) become a distant memory, we will have to transition from just checking in to actually performance managing. Performance goals are still relevant, and we should be ensuring that the momentum on achieving those strategic goals and initiatives isn’t lost. Encourage the use of available technology that is sometimes overlooked to organize projects or process improvements. Collaborate with fellow leaders to come up with examples of valuable work that your teams can do in the event their regular workload slows down.
We'd love to know what your best practices have been since we've started this journey. Please comment below and/or share your experience with other leaders on what works best for you and your team! Also, don't forget to check out the Cartus COVID-19 Content Hub for additional insights, best practices, and resources related to the current global mobility environment.